The 2017 Tweet tasting calendar kicks off on a high with The Macallan arguably the most recognised single malt whisky in the world. A high benchmark was set towards the end of 2016 with a series of excellent events from Benromach and Gordon & MacPhail. As always our host was The Whisky Wire with Macallan Brand Ambassador, Sietse Offringa, along to assist us with a trio of whiskies from the famous Speyside distillery.
For those unware of the format, a fortunate select few are sent samples of the whiskies to place under the microscope to discuss their characteristics online via Twitter at the arranged time. It makes for an interesting evening, as you broadcast your own thoughts online and take in what others have found. Audience participation is always encouraged and at the end of it all we’re asked for our favourite whisky of the night.
Now these whiskies aren’t new to me but to sit down with them as a complete set certainly is. The benefit of any vertical tasting is it highlights the distillery character and the range of bottlings that you can compare in a new perspective. It’s always worth noting that batches and therefore whiskies do change over time, even only subtle or slight amendments. It’s therefore always beneficial to go back to a previous whisky and see how it stands up to scrutiny in today’s light.
Admittedly I may not be a huge fan of the current Macallan’s partially because of their focus on the investor market and releasing whiskies with a growing price tag and expanding packaging. It’s all become a little tiresome and predictable. The most important aspect should always be the whisky, but bottles are rarely opened (if they can be afforded by mere mortal whisky enthusiasts) and age statements dropped. However, things have been improving, we’ve seen a welcome shift back towards age statements and acknowledging that not all non-age statement whiskies are lacklustre, the Macallan Edition range has been very well received. So it was with optimism and interest that I sat down with this Macallan trio.
Fine Oak 12-year-old
bottled at 40%, expect to pay around £60
Colour: yellow gold
Nose: a strikingly rich fruity arrival with fresh berries, apricots followed by marzipan and pineapple. A gentle floral note, green apples with a hint of malt and a gentle stroke of vanilla from the wood.
Taste: more vanilla onto the palate with honey and ripe pears. More sweetness with caramel, a wisp of citrus, leather and nuttiness. A creamy finish with more vanilla and a hint of smoke.
Overall: a solid opener and retailing for nearly £60 you’d expect nothing else. A good whisky albeit somewhat overpriced but this is the premium for Macallan.
Sherry Oak 12-year-old
bottled at 40% and expect to pay around £70
Nose: a bolder richer expression compared to the Fine Oak. There are similarities with the floral note and apples. Beyond these reside sultanas, mango and barley drops. An array of spices with nutmeg, all-spice and dark cherries to finish off an engaging nose.
Taste: orange peel moving into a sticky marmalade and dried fruits. Walnuts, toffee apples with more vanilla and cherries. There’s an assortment of welcoming autumnal spices with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. A little dark chocolate towards the finish when the toffee returns.
Overall: I’ve always been a fan of Macallan when it’s married with sherry butts as the spirit really engages with the host and comes alive. Always a popular release this bottling comes at an extra premium compared to the Fine Oak expression, but feels more worthwhile.
Double Cask 12-year-old
bottled at 40% and expect to pay around £50
Nose: less vanilla this time around, instead its more married with sweetness resulting in butterscotch and fudge. A little pepper seasoning the raisins, oranges, apples and malted milk biscuits.
Taste: reminiscent of the sherry oak but a little more lighter and lacking in places with cranberries and a malty flavour. The marmalade is evident but diluted, more vanilla and a creamy caramel are notable supporters. Black pepper is a strong influence from the oak with a handful of bar nuts that feels slightly overpowering.
Overall: featuring more American oak ex-sherry casks in the mix, this of the trio is the more heavily sherried expression yet lacks the density of the 12-year-old sherry oak.
Winner for me is the Sherry Oak followed by the Fine Oak. Being all 12 years of age, these show how adaptable the Macallan spirit is and the influence of cask usage. The realm these Macallan’s occupy is somewhat confined and predictable (albeit retaining enough validity to warrant their existence), but many out there will appreciate the safety and emphasis on quality that the brand is known for. I’d just prefer Macallan to apply that little bit of that craziness they display when it comes to pricing, elsewhere within their whisky DNA.